Our topic tonight is fleas. Yes, fish get them too, so I have found out. It is assumed at this point that they infected my tank from feeder goldfish, who are known carriers of the fleas. I've once again taken a problem and brought it here, where I will turn it as much into a science study as I am able to at this point. There is a lot of equipment I don't yet have. I first noticed the parasites on my fish 2 days ago. They looked like brown/olive green scales. At first there was only one, so I didn't pay it much attention. 2 days later, both of my oscars had them scattered about their bodies and fins.
My oscars live in a 47 gallon tank that they have now outgrown. I am trying to save for a new one, and recently added a 2nd filter to the tank. (Penguin 330 without biowheels, and Aquamaster 600) The substrate is large gravel mixed with silica sand on one end. Sharing the tank is a 9 inch pleco and the feeder goldfish when we put them in.
After consulting with LuAnn tonight, she encouraged me to do what I could for my oscars tonight to make them as comfortable as possible until I can get the medication I will need to treat the tank. As I had feared, the fleas would need to be removed with a tweezers. For as much as my oscars love to be pet, they hate being lifted out of their tanks.
(Their names are Mamma and Oscar. Mamma is a long finned tiger oscar and Oscar is an albino tiger oscar. They are approximately 3 yrs old and about 11 inches long, each.)
Neither appreciated being taken out of the aquarium, and I was treated to not one bath, but 2! Think of fishing on a boat, catching a large fish and netting it out of the water. When it hits the surface, usually it will flop around causing a lot of splashing....now imagine this in your living room, and you will understand how wet I got. I started out by preparing each fish a bucket, siphoned tank water into each. I then siphoned more to make a 30% water change as I was treating the fish. As I added the fresh water, I also added 4 1/2 tbsp of salt, and a few squirts of stress coat. I decided to use my kitchen counter because it offered the best lighting and most space. I used the mat from under the strainer, lined it with a bath towel which I soaked with water from the buckets. I used a large net, lifted the fish out, and laid it on the towel, covering it with the top of the towel. Once it stopped flopping, I gently went over it inch by inch, attempting to spread all fins. With a tweezers, I plucked the tiny fleas from the fish, and put the fleas in a small cup with a few drops of tank water in it. This was difficult after the 2nd one, so I then wiped them on the towel as I removed them. They seemed to have a texture similar to a soft contact lens, rubbery....yet very flexible. They were also sticky, hard to remove from the fish and the tweezers. Gently turning each fish over, I checked the other side, and carried it in the net back to the tank. They both appeared happy to be back, and I was concerned because of the amount of flopping Mamma did on the counter. She managed to get free of the net enough to hit the counter top where there was no towel. I will be watching them as close as possible in the days ahead.
After both oscars were safe in their tank, filters both cleaned/rinsed, and flow rate adjusted to slow it down a bit, I returned to the fleas. Using the tweezers, each was put into the cup with water, and when looking in the buckets, I found more fleas that had fallen loose while the fish was flopping around in there. Sometimes it can be a good thing to make a fish flop, huh? Once safe in the cup with a cover on it, I cleaned up my mess. When I returned it was with camera in hand to take pictures of these fascinating little pests. I am hoping that the pictures can help others to identify the problem accurately to allow for proper treatement. While taking pictures I noticed a flea "stuck" to the side of the cup away from the others, and what looked like white lines next to it. Upon closer examination, I found string of what could have been tiny tiny pearls. Yes, you guessed it, eggs! I am hoping to see them hatch. The cup I am using for keeping them is from a betta, and I have considered using a dead feeder to feed the fleas. The longer I can keep them alive, the more I can learn what they do, how they function, and how to best get rid of them or avoid them in the first place. Getting rid of these is going to be like getting rid of snails. The eggs are that small, and can be laid anywhere. I am expecting to have to pluck more from my fish in the next day or 2 while I await payday for medication.
(notice the white strand of eggs leading from the back end of the flea)